Members of five different faith organizations gathered for a meditation and prayer interfaith walk on Sunday to bring hope and safety to Columbia after a series of shootings downtown.

Participants represented Community United Methodist Church, Calvary Episcopal Church, Calvary Heritage Baptist Church, Destiny Pointe Church, and the Buddhist religion.

The walk was organized by Tanya Heath, a strategic communication adjunct instructor at MU and a mayoral candidate for Columbia.

Heath came up with the idea after hearing about the violence happening downtown in the last few months.

“I grew up here, so I feel very compelled to do what I can to make Columbia the best it can be,” Heath said. “People were very excited and encouraged about participating. I thought this is such a good blessing for all of us.”

Heath chose the downtown location because many people are in the epicenter of the city. The route was set along places where some of the shootings occurred.

Public officials held a meeting last week after the third consecutive weekend of shootings downtown. In the early hours of Nov. 14, five people were injured in a shooting, and a suspect was shot and killed by police. Mayor Brian Treece and Police Chief Geoff Jones called on community involvement to help stop the violence.

Roger Pilkenton remembers seeing the caution tape up on Fifth Street after the latest shooting on Nov. 14. A member of the Calvary Episcopal Church, Pilkenton helped run the event alongside Heath.

He hopes the event will help to create a change of mindset in the community.

“Our expectation is that by affecting how we think will affect how we act; and how we act will affect what we are going to do,” Pilkenton said.

Ryan Burke grew up in Columbia and attended MU before going overseas to pastor in Baghdad.

“What’s sad is that I started seeing more violence in my hometown than I was seeing in Baghdad,” he said. Burke was glad to see community members gathered to show that there are more solutions than violence.

Heath thought the event was successful and hopes to put on more walks like this. “This was just proof that there’s so much good in our community,” she said.

About 20 people walked in Columbia on Sunday. Fifty more people who were out of town for the upcoming holiday told Heath they would be praying for Columbia from where they were.

“The interesting ripple effect is that people have shared the meditation and prayer interfaith walk invitation,” Heath said. “So, we have people in England, St. Louis and in Joplin, Missouri praying for our downtown.”

“We just had so many people praying for us before the event. We had such good weather, and there were so many nudges and touches of faith along the way,” Heath said. “We just know that this is going to make a tremendous difference for our city.”

  • Higher Education Reporter, fall 2021

  • Assistant city editor, grad student studying investigative reporting and photojournalism. You can reach me at or in the newsroom at 882-5720.

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